CLARENDON, Jamaica — The possibility of Clarendon's two top-flight teams crashing out of the Red Stripe Premier League at season's end is increasingly becoming a talking point in this central Jamaica parish.
While Sunday's victory over Montego Bay United gave Humble Lion (31 points) some wiggle room in their battle for survival, a fourth defeat in six games has left Sporting Central Academy (29) in a more vulnerable position.
Seven and five points, respectively, are not necessarily a bad cushion to have on a Highgate United team that has won only six of their 25 fixtures to date, but with some 13 games remaining in the season, football fans here aren't taking anything for granted.
While they believe both sides have enough quality to hold off any challenge that Highgate — to a lesser extent Savannah — might offer, they also recognise that football is an unpredictable sport and the strangest things tend to happen when you least expect them.
Rivoli United's relegation from the then Digicel-sponsored premiership in 2010 is, perhaps, the perfect reference point. The St Catherine side, who had leading goalscorer Devon Hodges in their ranks, were at least eight points clear of the drop zone in the latter stages of the third-round, but somehow found themselves in a dogfight in the fourth-round.
Needing only a draw on the final day of the season to avoid demotion, Rivoli gave up an 81st-minute goal in a 2-1 defeat to Sporting, who would have been relegated without the win.
Since 2010, Sporting and Humble Lion have now found themselves in a second relegation battle, which leaves many here asking, "what are the clubs doing wrong?".
That question tends to divide opinions — some say poor management; others say the players might not be good enough — but the one thing that most observers seem to agree on is that the next few games will be crucial for both teams.
Based on the overall and third-round points standing, Humble Lion would appear to have the easier challenge over the next seven games. Geoffrey Maxwell's side, currently on a four-game unbeaten streak, will face three teams from the top six and four from the bottom six.
On the contrary, Sporting, who have lost four of their last six games under new coach Lenny Hyde, will go up against four 'top six' teams and three from the bottom six.
A visit from defending champions Portmore United, currently in second, tomorrow, will be their most immediate test, while Humble Lion will play away to league leaders Harbour View today.